Our second full day at Walt Disney World took place at Epcot – which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, by the way. While riding on the Peoplemover in Tomorrowland, we passed a small model that Walt had designed to outline his original idea for that community, with Epcot being the realization of that dream. As a kid, Epcot was my least favorite park. I wasn’t super interested in the World Showcase and recall just being excited about Figment and the halls of gadgets. As an adult, I was looking forward to re-experiencing the place…especially the representations of countries I had visited myself.
We arrived right at opening and essentially followed the crowd to Test Track, a ride designed in partnership with Chevrolet. It simulates the design and testing of a concept car and is pretty well done. The line experience was full of information, props, and interactive exhibits so it breezed by. One of those interactive portions allowed us to design our own car; mine ended up looking kinda like a cross between a Dodge Viper and the Batmobile. All choices when designing the car impact four areas: efficiency, capability, responsiveness, and power. When we boarded our own car (on a track, of course) we were greeted with digital readouts after every section letting us know how our designed car fared. Mine didn’t do great, but it has no actual impact on the ride experience. The ‘power’ section of the ride was a speedy slingshot around a sloped track, which I enjoyed immensely.
Once we were finished with that, we wandered the Future World section of the park for a bit. It was interesting how the bones were the same (the buildings and such) but the details were different, such as the rides or signage. We took a ride on Spaceship Earth (the big globe everyone knows) before setting off to the World Showcase and the Food and Wine Festival. For a few weeks a year, Epcot puts on a festival that showcases culinary treats from various countries that aren’t available at other times of the year. Since they’re small portions, it’s easy to try a little bit from all over the world. I particularly liked a bit of lamb chop with mint pesto at the Australia booth and Sam was smitten with a Liquid Nitro chocolate truffle offered at one of their ‘lab’ booths. It was dipped in liquid nitrogen, cracked open, and topped with a whiskey caramel sauce and almond bits. It was REALLY good!
My favorite pavilion was Japan, which really isn’t all that surprising considering that was one of my favorite destinations when I was abroad. They have a HUGE shop, full of familiar smells and sights from the Land of the Rising Sun. I was particularly pleased to see a large section of Hayao Miyazaki merchandise. I noticed a booth was selling beer, so I walked in to see if they had my favorite, yet hard-to-find-in-Oklahoma Japanese brew…and they did! Not only did they have the Kirin beer I sought, but they had a frozen version that was topped with, essentially, a beer Icee. I bought one with glee, thanking the Japanese cast member in her native tongue. She reacted very positively (in true Japanese fashion) and was REALLY excited when I returned a few minutes later after I remembered how to say it tasted very good. Samantha and I sat on the steps of one of their replica buildings and watched a nearby drum demonstration. If I closed my eyes, I could easily have been back in Osaka.
After circling around the lagoon (spending a little time in the Italy and Germany pavilions) we returned to the front of the park to attend Captain EO. Back in 1986, Disney developed a 3D long-form music video with Michael Jackson, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola. Due to MJ’s bad press in the 90s, the attraction disappeared. (For a complete side-trip into that fiasco if you weren’t alive/aware at the time, or perhaps were and got caught up in the tabloid journalism like I did, this is a GREAT read.) A few years ago, though, it was re-introduced. I hadn’t seen it since the late 80s and was really looking forward to what I would think after seeing again. It didn’t disappoint! It’s cheesy in the best 80s ways and I found the song catchy. I don’t think Samantha was quite as taken with it as I was….but I do view the 80s through radical rose-tinted glasses. We also stopped by at the Soarin’ ride next door, which became Samantha’s favorite. It simulates a gliding experience over a variety of American landscapes, including an orange grove (complete with orange smell!). It was very relaxing, though I could see that the projection system was due for an upgrade. I learned just yesterday it’s being taken offline in January for just such a refurbishment.
The sun was starting to become our enemy. Neither of us had thought to pack hats (or sunscreen!) so we aquired both. Actually, Samantha bought a Chinese umbrella, but it served the same purpose. It made an immediate difference as we continued our tour around the World Showcase, taking time in each country pavilion to appreciate the detailed representations and enjoy some of the fine cuisine. Interestingly, the France Pavilion went the extra mile to mimic their worldly counter-parts. When Sam eagerly spoke French to one of the cast members, they replied indifferently. It may have been the busyness of the Food and Wine festival, but it did match both of our experiences in the real Paris. The bread was still fantastic, either way.
We continued wandering the pavilions, spending extra time in Morocco and Italy before it was getting close to dinner time. Even though Epcot had a wealth of options, I had made reservations at the nearby Yachtsman Steakhouse. A boat took us from Epcot to the nearby Yacht Club and Boardwalk. That resort area was next to the Swan and Dolphin hotels, which is where I stayed the last time I was at Disney. I stood for a few minutes, taking in the scenery at a place that looked a lot more familiar than I had expected. I saw little speedboats docked at the Boardwalk, just like my family had rented on our last visit. Even the palm trees looked the same. It was rather comforting. Dinner was spectacular, though I have to give the California Grill marks for a better-cooked steak. We were treated to a free dessert as honeymooners, too!
When we arrived back at Epcot, it was almost time for fireworks. Though we tired from the day’s adventure (and too much food) we continued to wander. Sam was delighted when we found a Christmas store in the Germany pavilion, which helped pass the time until it was about time for the show. By the time the fireworks finished and we arrived back at our hotel, we were totally beat. Achy, hot, not quite sunburned..but definitely cooked. We collapsed into bed as two tired-but-satisfied people. The idea was put forth that perhaps we could take a rest day on Thursday…but, we had tickets for Mickey’s Not-S0-Scary Halloween Party the next day, and there was no sense in wasting a day’s park ticket on a few hours of party time. The next day would bring us to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which excited me the most. It had been my favorite park as a kid. How would it hold up now?